Financial Stressors

Couples worried about debt collectors, repossession, or the next wave of bills don’t often feel like cuddling much.


When money is tight, intimacy and the comfort of connection often give way to tension and resentment. Conversations repeatedly disintegrate into accusations. Trust and security are frequently overcome by uncertainty.


Research done in 2013 confirms that money is the #2 stressor for Americans, behind job pressures. Money issues can include loss of a job, reduced retirement income, overwhelming medical expenses, living paycheck to paycheck, and simply overspending.


As a couple’s financial foundation becomes unstable, cracks in a relationship can start to show. A mixture of negative emotions might put a couple at odds as decisions regarding financial priorities, necessary sacrifices, and external responsibilities are made under duress. Partners may wonder whether they can rebound financially or relationally and find their life together seriously compromised.


Money is such an influential factor in relationship satisfaction that financial stress is a leading cause of marital conflict. Monetary setbacks can lead to depression, anxiety, and result in various health issues.  77% of people reported regularly experiencing physical symptoms caused by stress (fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, muscle tension, and decreased appetite), and 73% regularly experienced psychological symptoms caused by stress.


Additional signs of financial distress include:

  • Arguing frequently about money and financial matters
  • Worrying constantly about finances
  • Procrastinating paying bills and/or bouncing checks
  • Avoiding financial decision making
  • Struggling to implement financial plans
  • Lying about income, bills or finances
  • Maintaining high levels of consumer debt
  • Hiding purchases or credit card bills
  • Overspending or shopping binges


While it seems the state of the U.S. economy has been improving recently, the past several years have contributed to families experiencing financial issues such as unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcies, all which that can create strain on family relationships.


Sometimes it’s not really money that is causing marital discontent, but issues with deeper roots; couples fighting consistently about money is sometimes a symptom of an inability to have a productive conversation regarding money.  This is common when couples have different views about spending and saving.  In cases like these, money becomes a weapon of sorts. One spouse uses the other’s spending habits as fuel for the fighting, bringing up his or her spending when it will hurt the most. Or sometimes a spouse spends to “get even,” and will buy something expensive as revenge.


Either way, financial pressures often test the strength and stability of a relationship. Being able to have a productive conversation is a key component to ensure that misunderstandings and arguments do not come between you and your partner when financial stressors emerge. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, Susie can help you and your spouse work through your money-related issues, as well as help your family develop communication strategies and approaches to conflict that will result in stronger relationships.